Back to Top Skip to main content

Determined to Serve: Critical care nurse joins the Reserve at age 50

Two military healthcare workers wearing masks Capt. Jennifer McGuigan, left, recently joined the Air Force Reserve at age 50. Facing a shortage of critical care nurses, the Reserve granted an age waiver for McGuigan. Here she is pictured with civilian co-worker Iris Appenrodt. (Courtesy photo)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Heroes Behind the Mask

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — In 12-plus years of working at a Veteran’s Administration Hospital, Capt. Jennifer McGuigan has heard many heart-wrenching stories from family members of those in her care as a critical care nurse.

She remembers one story in particular that changed her life and inspired her to join the Air Force Reserve at the age of 50.

“Many years ago, I cared for a Vietnam veteran who had suffered cardiac arrest at home,” she said. “The first responders were able to get his heart beating, but he never did breathe on his own. He was brought to our ICU (intensive care unit), and we cared for him for about a week until his family decided to withdraw life-sustaining treatments. While he was in our ICU, his father, who was a World War II veteran, shared with me how difficult it was for him when his son volunteered to serve in Vietnam. He knew firsthand what his son would experience, and even though it broke his heart, he felt he had to honor his son’s decision and support his desire to serve.”

It was stories like this one that made McGuigan feel particularly close to the families of the veterans in her care. Her children were only 8 and 9 at the time, but his words forever changed how she viewed the families of the veterans under her care.

“My kids are now old enough to join the military themselves, and even though they have not, I think of that World War II vet often,” she said. “I want to be able to help care for those serving our country for all of those parents who have had to struggle through the same situation as that World War II vet.”

With her children grown, McGuigan decided the time was right to do something about her desire to help those families. So at the age of 48 she set out to become a critical care nurse in the Air Force Reserve.

“I had heard from friends in the Reserve that there was a need for critical care nurses,” McGuigan said. “My husband served in the Air Force for 10 years, and loved it. When we discussed it, he was extremely supportive and excited that I wanted to serve in the Reserve.”

Next, she had to tell her kids of her plans, and to her surprise they were equally supportive.

The Air Force Reserve does indeed have a critical need for critical care nurses. These nurses have an important mission during wartime and have also been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The need for critical care nurses was highlighted during the response to COVID-19,” said Col. Sherry Hemby, Air Force Reserve Command’s command nurse and career field manager. “Many patients diagnosed with COVID-19 had difficulty breathing and were placed on ventilators to assist in their recovery. Critical care nurses, with their amazing attention to detail, were needed to watch every minute. They assessed changes in their patient’s condition and reacted with the most skilled care.

“They pulled patients through the COVID crisis. They held the hands of their patients when their family members could not, encouraging and cheering their patients on to fight for recovery.”

A retired Air Force colonel recommended McGuigan to Hemby and the command nurse reached out to the critical care nurse.

“I wanted to make sure she realized what was required for the job,” Hemby said. “When we talked about deployments, required training and physical demands, she was all in. She told me that fitness had always been important to her and she had no doubt she could pass the fitness requirements.”

Master Sgt. Felicia Mintz, an AFRC health professions recruiter, was McGuigan’s recruiter for most of the process.

“Capt. McGuigan was wonderful to work with,” Mintz said. “She always had a positive attitude and was on top of anything I needed from her. The biggest challenge was the age waiver process.

“Many times the older leads are already in management/administrative positions and don’t meet the hands-on experience needed,” Mintz said. “As a Reservist, you need to be able to maintain your critical care certifications through your civilian employment. If you’re not working in a critical care environment, you will not be able to do this.”

Another challenge is being physically qualified through a Military Entrance Processing Station.

“It doesn’t matter what age the applicant is, they have to meet the same physical requirements for entry as an 18- or 20-year-old,” Mintz said.

“The process of joining was a bit like running a race,” McGuigan said. “A lot of it is mental endurance. Going to MEPS was one of the bigger challenges. If I remember correctly, the paperwork went back and forth at least three times before I had my appointment. My favorite part of MEPS was when I was referred to as ‘a person of advanced age.’ That made me laugh out loud.”

In total, the process that lead to McGuigan’s oath took more than a year and a half, but she never waivered in her desire to serve.

She was sworn into the Reserve June 6 via video teleconference. After 18 months of striving to join the Reserve, the day had finally arrived.

“After all the ups and down, I think there was a part of me that wasn’t entirely sure it would happen,” she said. “After I took the oath and everyone started calling me captain, I think I giggled every time. It was such an amazing honor that Col. Hamby was able to do my oath by Zoom meeting and that my family and friends were able to be there.”

Mintz found inspiration working with McGuigan.

“Her determination is extremely motivating,” Mintz said. “Capt. McGuigan is a great example to the younger generation about perseverance. There was never any guarantee she was going to be able to join, but her mindset was to keep moving forward in the process until she either couldn’t go anymore or she was able to oath in.”

Now that McGuigan is officially a Reserve Citizen Airman, she is ready to do whatever is asked of her.

“I don’t have expectations other than to serve where I am most needed and where my skill set can be of the most help,” she said. “I will proudly serve in whatever way I can.”

Disclaimer: Re-published content may be edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

You also may be interested in...

DOD recommends adults 75 and older should seek COVID-19 vaccine

Article
1/19/2021
Nursing home members, wearing masks, wait in a line to get their COVID vaccine

This age recommendation differs slightly from that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends vaccinations for those 65 and older.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Is It Your Time to Get the Vaccine? | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine for Adults Age 75 and Older

LTG Place Vaccine Roll-Out Video

Video
1/18/2021
DHA Seal

DHA Director LTG Ron Place talks about coronavirus vaccines, their safety and efficacy, and encourages everyone to do their own research to get vaccinated.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Partnerships, COVID-19 are catalysts for enterprise virtual health

Article
1/14/2021
Image of Mr. Adler with text: "Partnerships, COVID-19 are catalysts for enterprise virtual health."

Jamie Adler, the lead for the DHA’s Virtual Health Clinical Integration Office, discusses the future of virtual health (VH).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Connected Health

COVID-19 hinders blood donations during National Blood Donor Month

Article
1/14/2021
Navy Capt. R. Wade Blizzard, commanding officer of U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, donates blood for the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Units Diego Garcia walking blood bank on Dec. 17, 2020. The walking blood bank is a list of eligible donors who can provide blood in case of emergency. (U.S. Navy photo by Navy Seaman Apprentice Stevin Atkins)

Life-saving blood is in high-demand by the Armed Services Blood Program, as the COVID-19 has negatively impacted donations.

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Public Health | Coronavirus | Holiday Observances

COVID presents new set of challenges for DOD environmental health

Article
1/12/2021
Group of Marines, snowshoeing through the snow

One of the most important factors to take into account when maintaining one’s overall fitness is physical environment.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness in a Pandemic | Reintroducing Total Force Fitness | January Toolkit | Coronavirus | Total Force Fitness

DOD Launches “My MilLife Guide” Text Message Program to Boost Wellness

Article
1/11/2021
The new My MilLife Guide program supports the wellness of the military community.

DoD has launched My MilLife Guide, a new program that sends text messages designed to help the military community boost overall wellness while navigating stresses related to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Operation Live Well | Health Readiness

Navy corpsman provides multitude of support to hospital

Article
1/8/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, in a supply room looking at the shelves

“Thinking outside the box is what makes a great person, let alone a Sailor," Tie said.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

MTF facilities, markets set to resume transition heading into 2021

Article
1/6/2021
A military nurse, wearing a mask, prepares a needle for a vaccination

Butler says transition on track.

Recommended Content:

MHS Transformation | Coronavirus

BACH healthcare workers and first responders vaccinated for COVID-19

Article
1/6/2021
Soldier gives a nurse a vaccine in her left arm

BACH now joins other Defense Health Agency military treatment facilities that have received the vaccine, marking the start of a phased-in vaccination program to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Toolkit

Countering seasonal depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Article
1/5/2021
Man with his head in his hands, sitting in front of a Christmas tree

SAD, or sometimes called seasonal depression, is a subtype of a major depressive disorder.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Wellness | Mental Health Care | Depression | Suicide Prevention

MHS operational innovations continue in battle against COVID-19

Article
1/5/2021
Two medical personnel, wearing full PPE, in an operating room

MHS innovations in 2020 include a new registry for real-time COVID-19 data and a system to free up hospital beds and protect patients from the disease.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Research and Innovation | Innovation | Technology

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Publication
1/5/2021

This toolkit provides communicators across the Military Health System (MHS) with important information about the COVID-19 prevention and vaccination from the CDC to share with patients and health care professionals.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Social Media Toolkit

Publication
1/5/2021

These messages are provided for you to use on your platforms with any of the images from the COVID-19 Toolkit.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Remote monitoring program enables COVID-19 patients to recover at home

Article
1/4/2021
Two medical personnel, wearing masks, looking at the contents of a home-based COVID treatment kit

The program equips COVID-19 patients needing additional monitoring with a home healthcare kit and 24/7 oversight from registered nurses to ensure a higher level of post-hospital care.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | Innovation

DHA’s IT innovation continues during COVID-19 pandemic

Article
12/31/2020
Three military personnel, wearing masks, in front of a computer screen

IT innovations keep pace despite COVID-19 road blocks.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Research and Innovation | Technology | MHS GENESIS
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 24

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.